Patriarch Irinej of the Serbian Orthodox Church has died, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said on social media.
He tested positive after attending the November 1 funeral of Metropolitan Amfilohije, the Serbian Orthodox Church's senior cleric in Montenegro, who also died from COVID-19.
The protocol of the funeral envisages that the Serbian member of the Presidency of Bosnia-Herzegovina, Milorad Dodik, will also speak.
Despite warnings that the number of coronavirus infections could rise, thousands turned out to mourn him.
The head of the Serbian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Irinej has died after testing positive for the coronavirus, the church announced on Friday.
Photos show mourners kissing the corpse of the dead bishop and Patriarch Irinej sitting a short distance away from the coffin.
Since Amfilohije's death, and the hospitalisation of the patriarch, Serbian priests have been appealing for their parishioners to take the virus seriously. Many had previously downplayed the threat of the global pandemic.
Some 1,110 people have died in the country from Covid-19.
On the political side, Irinej took an active role in campaigning against the independence Serbia's former province Kosovo declared in 2008. 'People like you are never gone'.
Irinej was elected to the highest position in the Serbian Orthodox Church in January 2010.
At the time, Irinej was seen as a relatively moderate and a compromise choice among the factions within the church.
Throughout his church reign, he maintained the hardline, anti-Western nationalist stance, criticizing the country's advances to the West and urging instead, closer relations with Russian Federation.
That included beliefs that the Serbs were historic victims of injustice and played on alleged anti-Serb policies in rival Balkan nations as well as the worldwide community. The church has around 12 million followers, mainly in Serbia, Montenegro and Bosnia, and dioceses in the United States, Australia and Western Europe.
Irinej had met Putin and Russia's Orthodox Patriarch Kirill, underscoring the close cultural and religious ties between the two Slavic countries.
The predominantly ethnic Albanian territory is home to important SPC monasteries and churches, and Irinej even threatened violence if holy sites were recognised as belongings of the breakaway territory.
The Roman Catholic Church split from the Orthodox east in the 11th century in an event called the Great Schism.
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